The Musk Ox Farm director Mark Austin is the first to admit that Maple, a three-day-old musk ox calf, is the cutest thing in the world. Her thin legs take wobbling steps. Her fine fuzz tickles her giant mother’s belly. And when she ambles through the pasture after nursing, her bright pink tongue wags from the side of her mouth. And Maple is just the beginning: 11 more calves are on the way this spring season, and the farm will soon burst into a flurry of feeding, combing, inserting microchips, tending to mothers, and, of course, greeting visitors.
Though he acknowledges the endearing quality of a baby musk ox in spring, Mr. Austin worries that visitors to The Musk Ox Farm might get so caught up with the new calf that they miss the farm's larger project. “I’m trying to battle the perception we’re a roadside attraction. It’s not just about getting out of your car and snapping a photo of a musk ox for your Alaska photo album.”
Not that Mr. Austin hasn’t snapped a few photos of Maple himself. He simply hopes the spectacle won’t overshadow the nonprofit farm’s scope, which begins and ends with the animals themselves. Although the majestic species is about 600,000 years old, domestication efforts began only 60 years ago by Farm founder John Teal. Every spring, the several-hundred-pound animals shed their qiviut, a thick under wool, some of which the farm ships to the native knitters’ cooperative in Oomingmak. There, members knit the wool into delicate lacy garments that they eventually sell to supplement their subsistence lifestyle. So when Mr. Austin looks at Maple, he sees not just a huggable calf, but the source of positive economic change for rural native Alaskan women. “The animals are fascinating,” he says. “But it’s the big picture that gets me up in the morning.”
Ever since The Alaska Club opened its first location in 1986, they've been striving to serve their members by adding amenities, classes, and opening new locations. Though each location?s offerings vary, they supplement their well-stocked fleets of cardio machines and strength equipment with cycling studios, climbing walls, basketball courts, swimming pools, and play centers for the kids. The club also offers spa services including hydromassage beds, tanning, and saunas.
Group fitness classes include yoga, step aerobics, and Pilates, and personal trainers stand at the ready to help clients focus on fitness goals. The clubs also offer swim lessons and summer camps for kids, setting in stone their commitment to making The Alaska Club a place for the whole family, not the half-formed family, which needs at least seven more years to gestate in the laboratory incubator.
What began as a colony farm built by the U.S. Army in 1935 became, by the mid-1950s, the childhood home of Reindeer Farm's head honcho, Tom Williams. After studying the habits of Scandinavian and Siberian reindeer herders in high school, Tom began to understand why the antlered creatures were considered the "cattle of the North": The brisk Alaskan climate suited their dense coats and languid presence at pool parties. In 1987, after years of practicing law throughout Alaska, Tom ventured to Canada to meet his first herd of reindeer, which he kept corralled next to a tiny sign and donation jar on the modest farm. Since then, that initial herd has blossomed into 150 reindeer, who graze beside 35 elk, 13 horses, one bull moose, and one surprisingly well-adjusted bison. Now a petting zoo, the farm has grown alongside the herd, with guided tours, scavenger hunts, and horseback rides treating guests to an up-close and hands-on experience with the majestic animals. Located in the colony's original chicken coop, a gift shop provides guests with any number of collectibles to commemorate their visits.
Over sweeping evergreen pine forests and snow-capped mountains, the pilots from Above Alaska Aviation's FAR flight school hone their craft. FAA-certified instructors coach students in a range of specialized flight training in a fleet of 7EC Champ aircraft, as well as a PA-18 Super Cub and Cessna 180B. They train private pilot students in tailwheel aircraft from start to finish, tailwheel endorsements, and single-engine sea float ratings on the mountain lakes of Susitna Valley. Students learn the basics of flying tail-wheel aircraft?planes with landing gear on the tail?to hone skill sets, enhance their understanding of flight safety, and help them feel superior to carrier pigeons. When not teaching flight, bush pilots ferry passengers to remote wilderness areas where they can hike, fish, or hunt with rifles and bows.
The instructors at Alaska Kayak Academy share their love for sea kayaking by training and leading adventures in Alaska's rivers and coastal waters. Scheduled year-round, classes range from basic paddling instruction to deep-water rescue techniques. Guided trips cater to all levels of paddlers, with day trips along salmon runs and through the glacial ice of Prince William Sound. Rentals equip paddlers for independent exploration, refining skills, and humming quietly to themselves in peace. Alaska Kayak Academy also encompasses a store, where staff advise on gear such as new and used kayaks and the trendiest way to don a life jacket.
The thud of well-aimed balls precedes the satisfying crack of crashing pins, a sound that signifies victory for competitors spread across North Bowl's family-friendly lanes. A retreat for seasoned and novice bowlers alike, the alley keeps competitions balanced with lightweight balls and bumper lanes available upon request. Booming music and flashing disco lights herald a shift from open bowling to neon bowling—special sessions on Fridays and Saturdays when athletes face off or dance off in a nightclub atmosphere. Parties and leagues bond bowlers of all ages via lively recreation, and fundraisers enlist the sport to benefit worthy causes. On-site snacks and libations fuel sporty endeavors until closing time or the nachos gain self-awareness.